I don’t know if you can talk about Ubud and not mention Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. It was made even more famous by Julia Roberts when she played the author in the movie based on the book. I didn’t read the book, but I did watch the movie on one of my trans-Atlantic flights back in the day when we were corporate slaves who could only travel to distant locations once a year. I never gave that movie a second thought and probably wouldn’t have watched it if I wasn’t stuck on a plane with nothing else to watch. I didn’t even know that the “Love” part of the movie took place in Ubud until I got there and saw all sorts of references to the movie.
I’m sure you can find love in Ubud, maybe not with Javier Bardem, but there are plenty of healthy, single people there and if you can’t speak Bahasa Indonesia, don’t worry about it. Based on my unscientific eyeball-census, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least forty percent of the population is European, Australian or American. Since Kanako is already desperately in love with me, we skipped the “love” part and went straight to the “eat” part. Ubud is the perfect place to fill your belly with all sorts of tasty food. You can also get delicious Western food here that you’d be hard-pressed to find in other Indonesian cities. Of course, the prices for some of these Western establishments are high for Indonesia, but it’s still very reasonable. It’s even affordable for backpackers who are tired of insanely cheap, but repetitive rice and noodle dishes. Of course, we still ate at some warungs, small Indonesian eateries, that were fantastic too.
From what we experienced Ubud didn’t have any particular food specialties, so we’ll recommend specific restaurants that we enjoyed within walking distance of our accommodations on Monkey Forest street and Hanoman street.
Kafe: Our first meal in Ubud was lunch at this chill spot. The menu advertises that they wash their fruits and vegetables with purified water. Score! Seriously, if you’ve been unlucky enough to surf the Hersey Highway more than once in SEA, but you still want to eat raw veggies then this is a big deal. We decided to trust them and order a couple of sandwiches. They both turned out to be very tasty and we didn’t get Bali belly. Thanks, Kafe! We came back here a few more times and once Kanako had the burrito which I thought was a bit skimpy for the price, it was actually only half of a burrito, but she said it was the best burrito she’s had in awhile. Then again, I don’t know how much that’s worth since she hasn’t been anywhere near a burrito in almost two years. They also have a tantalizing display of desserts which I found to be hit or miss. The raw chocolate pie was just ok, but the walnut carrot cake was lovely.
Address: Jalan Hanoman 44b
The Pond: I love roast duck. Especially when the skin is crispy and the meat is moist. Mmmmm. We passed by Bebek Bengil Dirty Duck Diner after dropping off laundry one day and I decided that I had to have some dirty duck. Unfortunately, we read that Bebek Bengil is not so great and has become an overpriced tourist destination. My sweet boo did some research and found that foodie bloggers were getting their dirty duck fix at a place across the street called The Pond. So, we headed there for dinner and ordered the duck and pork ribs. The duck was much larger than any duck dish that I’ve had in Western countries and the skin was delightfully crispy. The ribs were also very tasty, but don’t bother trying to eat them with a fork and knife like I saw some silly woman doing. Just use your hands and then lick your fingers when you’re done. Ain’t no shame in that.
Address: Jalan Raya Pengosekan, across from Bebek Bengil
Down To Earth: We came here a couple of times for lunch and to use the internet in their breezy upstairs dining area. Kanako had the Dragon Bowl for lunch and it was large and in charge. It was also very tasty. I had an avocado sandwich that should be renamed an alfalfa sprout sandwich because there were much more sprouts than avocado. It was still good though. Don’t order the walnut brownie unless you like dry brownies that taste like they forgot to put cocoa in the mix. The ground floor is a shop for local hippies that sells things like raw chocolate, argan oil, alfalfa sprouts, and a bunch of other hippie stuff.
Address: Jalanl Guatama Selatan
I’m not a huge coffee fanatic like what seems like the majority of the world nowadays, but I do know how to enjoy a good cup and N certainly loves the stuff. So it was a bit of a surprise to me when I became hooked on the stuff at Seniman Coffee Studio, one of our best finds in Ubud. What we expected to be a one-time visit turned into two, three, four, then five because once we had this coffee, we really couldn’t have it anywhere else. It was mindblowing, even for someone like me who doesn’t know shit about coffee. A bonus was meeting one of the owners, Rodney Glick, a contemporary artist and coffee enthusiast who taught us about Ubud, coffee, and the art world.
We stopped into this place after we met the owner of another cute coffee shop in Denpasar who recommended Seniman and also recommended the coffee I ended up falling in love with: the Papua cold-drip on ice (five cups made per day). I didn’t know that coffee could have such complex flavors, or that it could taste completely different when made the same way by two different people. The young Indonesian boys and girls working there take their coffee very very seriously, and watching them diligently learning from Rodney and making a cup sort of reminds me of the kind of concentration and meticulousness seen during a Japanese tea ceremony.
We landed in Bali and immediately went about getting our visa extensions, which ended up taking longer than expected. We didn’t care at all because Ubud ended up being the perfect place to laze about and recharge and we did just that for two weeks. This town made popular by “Eat, Pray, Love” with sinewy yogis and young women trying to “find themselves” was also chock full of good, healthy, organic(-inspired) food and a great vibe for creative inspiration.
Every morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny day and ate a leisurely breakfast on our balcony in our pajamas. We eventually left our room to get lunch, explore and walk around the town. Maybe we should’ve been less lazy and done stuff like see the traditional dances or gone on tours of the coffee plantations and temples in the area, but we seriously needed some down time. It’s strange because while we never felt like we really needed to take breaks during the Europe leg of our adventure, Southeast Asia’s been a little more mentally taxing for some reason. We love it here in Indonesia but sometimes we need a “taste of home”. Ubud was perfect because it gave us just that and then some.
The afternoons were hot. We walked around the quiet town peeking into cute shops selling organic soaps and clothing, and stopped into cafés and restaurants when we were hungry. During the day, van loads of pale Chinese tourists descended on Ubud from the busier parts of the island like Kuta and Seminyak, fanning themselves under the identical cheap straw hats they probably bought for too much somewhere.